Twelve-year-old Tyla-Mia Foster had never been on a bike until eight months ago, but last weekend she took out the under-13 North Island secondary school championship race in Cambridge, beating more than 30 competitors from some of the most prestigious schools in the country.

She finished the 26.5km road race in a tick over an hour, surprising the commentator and elating spectators.

But, 1 News Now reported, her win wasn't a fluke. She had a plan.

"I made a girl stay in front of me the whole time. I kept telling her to keep going and go faster," Tyla said.


Then, with a few hundred metres left, she made her move.

"They were all telling me to stay in my lane; I said 'Nah,' I just went in front of them and won."

Tyla is one of six members of the Far North Flash team, often seen riding around the streets of Kaitaia with their coach (and sponsor), Kaitaia Primary School teacher Phil Gibbs. They're all girls, all Maori, and all under the age of 13.

They cycle five times a week and swim three times, Phil getting them to and from training. He bought their bikes and all their gear, and they pay him $10 a week.

There's just one prerequisite - dedication. They're not allowed to do other sports, and have to attend every training session. Tyla was recruited last year after finishing third in her school cross country reduced her to tears.

"Most kids would be pretty happy to come third, but this girl wanted to win. I knew that if she wanted to win that badly she'd be great on my team," he said.

The North Island champs was Tyla's first event at this level, but was obviously far from overwhelming. While other schools had teams of more than 50 cyclists, and erected large marquees, food stands and pit stops, the Flash team hung out in their mini van, completely unfazed.

"They're Northland kids. They're tough and they're talented," Phil said.